The Ten Minute Network

Recently, the TTC implemented a maximum 30 minute headway across the network and full service from roughly 6:00 am to 1:00 am everywhere.  Plans for 2009 include a reduction of this maximum to 20 minutes, a topic I reviewed in a previous post.  Whether we will actually see this next year is still a topic for budget debates, and the recently announced fare freeze could put that scheme on hold.

Another option that has surfaced is the concept of a core grid of routes where service would never be worse than every 10 minutes.  To get a sense of what this might look like, I culled through the current schedules to produce a list of routes that have headways wider than 10 minutes.  This is not a definitive list, and I know there can be both additions and deletions.  Indeed, proposals like this are guaranteed to produce all sorts of political fights as each Councillor tries to get “their” routes on the “A list” for service quality.  The criteria for picking the routes were:

  • Routes on the major concession roads, or a reasonable approximation, were chosen.  This is the roughly 2km square grid of main streets in Toronto.
  • For areas with more complex geometry such as southern Scarborough, I have selected routes to provide geographic coverage.
  • Only services within the 416 are included.
  • All streetcar lines are included, although an argument can be made that one or two of them could be trimmed from the list.

Where the cells in the table are empty, the service is already at a 10 minute headway or better, and some routes have completely blank rows.  What is quite noticeable here compared with the chart of 20 minute routes is that there are more time periods where service improvements would be needed on more routes.  Moreover, many of these are major routes where the number of additional vehicles would be substantial.

In a period of tighter finances, this raises the question of which approach to service improvement should get priority:

  • Improve service even more on lesser used routes and periods from 30 to 20 minute maximum headways.
  • Improve service on core routes to 10 minute headways.
  • Improve service on routes that could benefit from reduced crowding.

All of these must be balanced against the debate over fare levels.  Regular readers will know that my preference has always been to concentrate on service because that’s what people really need.  The greatest prices in the world won’t do any good if the shop window is empty.